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Benefits and Risks of Social Capital for the Third Sector

Organized by:
Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi
Institute of Public Administration and Health Care Management
22-23 November 2007
Bocconi University, Milan

Conference background

Following from our conference in 2006 on trust and the use of social ties, our 2007 conference aims to consider the benefits and risks associated with intended and unintended consequences of social capital in policy and practice. Particularly in the third sector, social capital is usually understood to be a positive social aim. Social capital is undeniably a resource in the everyday life of individuals, groups and organizations; the question we raise is how best to manage its intended and actual use. In the third sector, social capital can be a key tool - a natural resource of our society - for supporting tasks often formally assigned to political institutions. At the same time, programmes and policies aimed at increasing access to social capital do not always follow intended paths and outcomes in every context. They can also have unintended and imbalanced consequences, such that the chances of establishing and nurturing social capital are not always evenly distributed. If not openly and adequately considered in policy and programme development and implementation processes, this can pose potential risks to third sector objectives. This ‘dark side’ of social capital is often linked to the unwelcome creation of opportunities for corruption, unintended social exclusion, reinforcement of elites vs. non-elites, and the misuse of social ties. Policy makers and third sector organisations need to understand social capital mechanisms in a spectrum of contexts, and how best to manage them effectively. The task of measuring and managing these benefits and risks may point out a key role for the social contributions of third sector organisations. As such, this conference seeks to explore a wide range of examples of how these organisations have managed the effects of institutional and individual social capital and how they might play a central role in an integrated system of providing gateways between effective social capital policy and practice in future.


We particularly welcome papers on the benefits and risks of social capital across a range of themes, such as:
• Theme 1: Social capital and public policy trajectories
• Theme 2: The role of social capital in managing volunteers
• Theme 3: Social capital and international CSOs
• Theme 4: Social capital in relation to sport governance
• Theme 5: The place of social capital in non-profit healthcare organisations
• Theme 6: The cultural sector and the impact of social capital


The list of key speakers will be published on our website by the end of May 2007.

Abstracts submission

Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted to [email protected] by 15 July 2007. Decisions on acceptance will be made by early September 2007.

Contact information

The conference is coordinated by Dr. Margaret Groeneveld, with the support of the 6th Framework European Commission Marie Curie Excellence Grant “Sport and Social Capital in the European Union”.
For updates and further details, please contact the conference administrator, Vito Di Sarli, at [email protected], or visit our website: www.unibocconi.it/sportandsocialcapital.


Bocconi University, Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research (IGIER)

Launched in 1990 as a project of Bocconi University, the CEPR and the NBER, today IGIER is a dynamic and international research environment in which residential Affiliates and Fellows, who are faculty members of Bocconi University, as well as Visiting Scholars, conduct both applied and...

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